Going On a Mission Trip? 11 Essentials for Your Packing List

What do I pack? It’s a common question for those preparing for a summer mission trip. In the midst of all the suitcases and granola bars, we thought we’d share some “what-to-bring” tips for anyone who’s heading out on a mission trip. Some of them may seem like no-brainers, but read on – we’ve spent years packing for mission trips like it’s our job.

11. Phrasebook

There’s no pressure to master a new language, but learning a few phrases goes a long way to show people that you care about them. Podcasts, translation apps, bookstores, and your local library have language-learning resources, but once you’re on the ground, nothing beats a good phrasebook for initiating a friendly (if poorly-pronounced) conversation.

Look for a phrasebook with:

  • well-organized content that’s easy to reference.
  • pronunciation guides.
  • cultural pointers.

10. Earplugs

It won’t take you long to realize that a new country is full of new noises. Traffic. Roosters. The call to prayer from a nearby mosque. Not to mention overnight bus rides or snoring roommates. A good night’s sleep will keep you energized for the day’s ministry, so if you’re a light sleeper, come prepared!

See Also:

eye mask, travel pillow, noise-canceling headphones, safe sleep aids

9. Cash

Skip the travelers checks and don’t count on an easily accessible ATM or credit card machine. Though it varies from place to place, we tend to find it easier to just use cash for personal spending.

Bring:

  • crisp new bills – many exchange places won’t accept torn or marked ones.
  • small bills – in situations where your home currency is accepted, you’ll still be given change in the local currency.
  • a money belt or pouch – carry larger quantities safely under your clothes (and your passport, too).

8. Photo Album

This isn’t just in case you get homesick – it’s a great conversation starter, and helps establish common ground when you’re building a relationship. The culture you’re visiting may have a strong emphasis on family ties, so pictures of your own family can demonstrate that you’re sent with their blessing.

Tips:

  • Keep it small.
  • Make sure the photos don’t include anything that could potentially be offensive or confusing in the culture you’re visiting.
  • Unless the average income where you’re headed is equivalent to yours, avoid having a digital photo album on a mobile device – print ’em out.

7. Travel Adapter/Battery Pack

Our phones and devices not only help us to stay in contact with each other, but they can also serve other purposes. Camera, alarm clock, currency converter, and translator are just some of the useful features that a phone can pack. To make sure they’re charged, bring some converters or a portable battery pack. Of course, phones and devices should never be a distraction when we’re on a mission trip. Never substitute a screen for real interaction or ministry.

6. Hand Sanitizer

Obvious, right? No matter where you’re traveling, it’s a good idea. We also love wet wipes – great for messy situations (like eating on the go) and decent replacements for a shower when the real deal just isn’t available.

5. Deodorant

No, this isn’t a set-up for a cheap joke about body odor. Unless your outreach is in a remote location, you’ll probably be able to purchase just about anything you forget or run out of – shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. But in many places, good deodorant can be like your other sock: hard to find. Be sure to bring it. Please.

Other Hard-to-Find* Items:

peanut butter, high-SPF sunscreen, certain feminine supplies, Ziplock bags
*depending on location

4. Water Bottle

Hydration is key to overcoming jetlag, preventing potential illness, and keeping you going, despite the unfamliarity of climate, schedule, and food. Bring a durable water bottle that’s easy to carry and won’t leak. We like having at least a 32-ounce capacity.

3. Clothes

Of course you know (we hope) that you’re supposed to bring clothes on your mission trip! But did you realize that the way you dress directly impacts your ministry? Most of us westerners are accustomed to an anything-goes approach to style. We wear pajamas to the store, tacky sweaters to parties, and whatever we want to church – and we’re proud of it.

But the culture you’re visiting may have an entirely different idea of what is neat or modest. And since our goal is to minister and serve, it’s important that we remove any hindrance to the Gospel, even if it cramps our style a bit. Find out what’s culturally appropriate to wear in the country you’re headed. And be thorough – don’t be that missionary showing up for church on Sunday in a frumpy dress with tennis shoes when all the locals are immaculately coiffed.

Don’t Forget:

  • flip-flops for sketchy showers
  • good shoes
  • a travel umbrella
  • a razor (sorry, guys, but No Shave November probably won’t translate)

Please Forget:

Your suitcase full of junky T-shirts. Unless you’re on a work site 24/7, you’ll need something more presentable.

 

2. A Bible

“It’s a mission trip! Of course I’m bringing my Bible!” Yeah, we know – but a few things to consider:

Is my Bible huge? Space is money. Leave the bulky study Bible at home and bring something that will easily fit in a purse, backpack, or pocket.

Is my Bible readable? If you want to share something from scripture with someone who speaks English as a second language, you’ll do a lot better with a version that’s easier to understand – even if it isn’t what you usually prefer.

Is my Bible “well-loved”? By all means, study it to pieces – just make sure the condition it’s in won’t be a hindrance in the culture you’re visiting. Muslims, for instance, treat the Koran with tremendous respect and care; it would undermine the value of our message if they saw our favorite Book underlined and dog-eared.

Tips:

  • Bibles with snaps or zippers are easier to keep compact and looking nice.
  • A parallel Bible in both your language and the language of your destination will help you follow along in church services (and it’s a great gift to leave with a new friend when you go home).

1. Love

“Christ’s love compels us,” wrote Paul, the missionary prototype. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of what to bring and what our days will be like. Remember, nothing matters more than loving people like Jesus does. Decide now whether it’s worth your discomfort to go, and adjust your attitude accordingly. Choose ahead of time to respond in love when a teammate or cultural difference frustrates you. Determine now to value people, not see them as projects. Prepare your heart to be open to new things, and God will amaze you.
Love God. Love people. Your trip will be a success – even if you run out of peanut butter or commit a few cultural blunders.

Have we missed anything that should be on the list? Let us know!

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